Fables #1 (2002), Cover art by James Jean, Vertigo Comics (DC)
When I consider choices for POP Retro Cover Classics, it would be difficult not to pick a cover from a series that featured some of the most artistic and attractive covers of the 2000s: Fables.
Fables began in 2002 as part of DC Comics Vertigo imprint (which was closed in June 2019). The premise of the new title was the existence of folklore and fantasy individuals in the real world, called “Fables”, and the efforts of a secret internal Fables organization (directed by Snow White!) responsible for keeping these individuals hidden from the rest of the world.
The tales were suggested for mature readers, full of sexcapades and twisted takes on popular fairy tales and characters, appropriately represented by the comic’s logo design, with the word “Fables” distorted and slashed. The Vertigo line of comics features a more modern and compartmentalized trade dress, that added to its mature and sophisticated visual feel, leaving the cover illustrations free of graphic clutter, and letting them shine even more.
The cover to issue #1 by the talented James Jean was a proper introduction to this series' premise, with Snow White taking center position on the cover, sitting in front of a Tree Of Life with serpentine branches, wearing a snow white outfit and contemplating a poisoned/not poisoned apple. Surrounding her is a montage of characters to appear in that issue and issues to come: including the Big Bad Wolf, cleverly depicted as a man in a wolf suit, one of the Three Little Pigs, and the Flying Monkey Librarian from Snow’s office. Both the pig and the monkey would make many further cover cameo appearances. Jean’s artistic style for this and many other Fables covers was very much an illustrative storybook approach, painterly and stylized, and always beautifully composed and rendered. His style was very reminiscent of Mary Grandpré, famous for her whimsical Harry Potter novel covers.
Be sure to check out our currently ongoing POP Comics Retrospective series featuring entertaining deep dives into each trade paperback volume of the legendary Fables. You can find the latest post here.